Now that I’ve made it through the mine field that is “pregnancy fear traps” – the constant horror stories that people tell you about their pregnancies – almost none of which I actually experienced, cause it turns out, surprise surprise, a healthy lifestyle leading up to pregnancy pays off in dividends; I’m deep in the thick of the mine field that is “birth fear” stories. There is a loose peppering of postpartum stories that are starting but I’m sure will pour down on me once I am through the excruciating-worse-than-gun-shots birth part. I’m taking birth the same way I took pregnancy, one breath at a time, trying not to overthink it or have any expectations and enjoy it as much as possible. I plan on taking postpartum the same.
I’m at a high risk for the drown-your-kid-in-the-tub level postpartum depression; everyone seems worried I will lose it. Part of it is honest worry, I have been diagnosed with depression more than once in the past and I did get diagnosed with antipartum depression, the precursor to postpartum. Some of it is brought on by my on-paper situation: I left an abusive home situation in Guatemala to move alone to San Cristobal de las casas in Mexico where I know no one and have no one to help – postpartum party in waiting!
Personally, I think I have a lot going for me: First, I have not felt much attachment to my baby this whole pregnancy, which was a brutal mess of anxiety, depression, anger, enabling, abuse and fear, so it may not feel so weird to be disconnected from my body or baby, a common symptom of even light postpartum. I have worked from home for 13 years, so I’m used to being cooped up and since my entire social life is on Skype, email and social media, it’s not like I have any pressure to do anything or see anyone, so I can just lie around and be tired and at the mercy of a needy little baby. Third, I have hired people – I call it Charlie Sheen mode, I’m paying them to leave. Instead of dealing with the crush of family members with their own selfish hidden agendas, I just have a house keeper, a doula and a midwife – totally happy to call them to help AND ask them to leave without any thought to it. And finally, what I have going for me most is that I have spent a lot of time battling depression, I am a pro at not giving into the darkness. My main tools are healthy food, surrender, prayer and a little bit of stretching, oh and I have a really healthy body image from years of being a 5-alarm hippie.
For those of you who are desperate, finally got the monster to sleep, found 5 minutes for yourself and you wanna do something for your aching body, here’s some yoga moves that can help you in the mental darkness and with stiff joints.
First I want to address the biggest concern on the internet: How fast are you going to get back into bikini shape girl? Yes, this seems to be a hot topic on yoga blogs – please be gentle with yourself; just know it will take some time. And by time I mean, give yourself 9 months, cause that’s how long it took you to warp those abs; focus on strength, the bathing suit will come a lot faster with forgiveness and self-love than any amount of crunches. All standing postures help with abs because you need to be breathing deeply from your bellybutton up, but to be honest, plank is my go to. It’s good for the abs and it focuses the mind and helps move frustration and anger out and if you are anything like me, you will get angry that you’re tired and trapped. Keep your shoulders away from your ears, breathe deep and count to 30 – you can do this after a C-section as well, but you might want to wait till you’re done bleeding into your adult diaper before you start daily planking. In between 30 second holds, try a wide leg child’s post to lengthen your spine and open your hips. It’s important to counter the flexion with relaxation.
Kegels & Standing Postures
The second biggest concern of all women post baby is: pelvic floor. You might find you don’t have much control over your vagina; just like your abs, this will not last. It’s important to start doing your Kegels right after birth because you don’t want to get a prolapsed…anything at all in your body. You can practice when you pee if you want, just shut off the flow, hold for five seconds, let your self pee a bit and shut off the flow again. You can also squeeze, hold and let go in 5 and 10 second intervals for ten rounds when you are up in the middle of the night feeding. Standing postures are a good time for this too, you can engage bandhas, which is a pulling up and locking motion from your cervix upwards while you breathe deeply from your belly button up, exhaling in an upward motion as well. Sun salutations (just do 3) are good to get energy flowing, strengthen the pelvic floor and elongate your spine. If you’re feeling good after 3 rounds, feel free to do Warrior 1- Warrior 2 – Triangle (all three build strength in legs, core and pelvis). Don’t overdo it – this is a little 5-10 minute flow when the baby is down for a minute, you should be able to do it in your pyjamas, half asleep. If you feel stressed, fatigued or out of breath, STOP and go into child’s pose right away. Tomorrow is another day. The more gentle you are with your body, the better that postpartum depression will be, you surfing the waves of darkness girl.
Shoulders & Neck
Your shoulders and neck might hurt from hunching over a feeding baby. You can work this out in a few ways. First, try to keep your shoulders back and apart when you feed, or feed on your side if you can, this will help prevent the pain of hunching over. Once you got that neck ache, then try Cobra and Cow Face Pose. Cow face opens up the shoulder blades and cobra will feel delicious because you have not been on your stomach in ages, and that alone make it worth it.
Legs Up The Wall
To finish it off, try some legs up the wall- it’s a restorative pose that is fantastic for gas and indigestion, but also tired legs and mental fatigue – cause if any of the horror stories are true, you will be SOOOOOO tired (every mom likes to tell you how horrible it is right after birth – it’s how they get you excited). You can do this watching TV as well, massive stress reliever. Make sure your legs are straight and your butt is tight to the wall and your back is relaxed on the floor.
If you need a cushion under your lower back or an eye pillow, get on that; this should feel great.
Pro tip: Baby Yoga Poses
Baby got gas? Lie her down on her back and bring her legs up to her chest, bicycle them, rotate the things in a clockwork motion – get them farts and burps out. Also helps with colic. Ujayi breath helps calm a baby too – it’ll calm you and it’ll calm the baby at the same time. And if all else fails and she just won’t stop crying, humming Redemption Song by Bob Marley is a fail-safe baby calm down. Use it wisely, and never too much. This works with babies of all ages, the vibration is on par with a gentle “Aum”. You can thank me later for that one.